Archives for June 2013

The Atlantic – The Wait We Carry : Using Data Visualization to Capture America’s Failure to Take Care of Its Veterans

The Atlantic – The Wait We Carry : Using Data Visualization to Capture America’s Failure to Take Care of Its Veterans

By: Rebecca Rosen

June 24, 2013

To explore “The Wait We Carry,” a new data-visualization project from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is to confront bureaucratic failure writ large. Scroll through the graph charting more than 1,700 veterans; see their names, ages, the lengths of their deployments; and then see, highlighted in burnt orange, just how many days they’ve been waiting to receive there benefits — an average of 558 days.

The backlog for veterans’ benefits claims is a mounting, slow-moving tragedy. Some 600,000 claims are “backlogged,” meaning they’ve sat around waiting, unanswered, literally in a pile somewhere, for more than 125 days. A statement provided to the New York Times in May said that Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veteran’s affairs, “is confident that we will end the backlog in 2015.” To which The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart replied: “In only two more years, they are hoping to have you wait only four more months.”

“The Wait We Carry,” which was funded by the Knight Foundation, is designed to communicate both the enormity of the problem and what the delay means in more human terms, by sharing the stories of individual veterans. For many of the veterans, visitors to the site can actually click on the words “I want to connect with this vet about his experience” and get in touch to learn more about his or her situation, send words of comfort and support, and perhaps even help.

“Something that we hear over and over again from veterans, unfortunately, is that they feel like they’re not being heard,” Aminatou Sow of the IAVA, who led the project’s team, told me. “The point of the data visualization for us was to give our members a way for them to tell use their stories.”

As the visualization opens, a little film plays: “Imagine this is you,” the text reads. In the background, a war scene unfolds, followed by images of disabled veterans. A slide appears, asking you, “How long should you have to wait before the country you served provides the help it promised?” You the select what you think to be an appropriate amount of time, perhaps a few days. Then the screen goes black, and the words read: “Over 500,000 veterans are waiting 344 days on average for the support they need.”

“A lot of people are blown away by how long that is — the fact that service-members have to wait for over a year,” says Sow.

Roughly 2.5 million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but many civilian Americans might not know more than a handful. “There’s just this huge civilian/service-member divide,” says Sow. She hopes that “The Wait We Carry” can be a plank in a bridge across that divide.

[link]

Veterans Task Force Would Bring Backlog to Zero – And Keep it There

Veterans Task Force Would Bring Backlog to Zero – And Keep it There

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/IAVAPressRoom

Veterans Task Force Would Bring Backlog to Zero – And Keep it There

IAVA testifies at Congressional hearing in support of Chairman Miller’s legislation to create an independent task force to bring sustainable solutions to fix the VA disability claims backlog

WASHINGTON – (June 28, 2013) – An independent task force would determine what caused the VA disability claims backlog and advance solutions needed to end the backlog, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will testify before a Congressional panel on Friday. Alex Nicholson, IAVA’s Legislative Director, today is appearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Nicholson spoke in support of H.R. 2189, introduced by Chairman Jeff Miller, and other legislation that would help bring the VA disability claims backlog to zero. Nicholson’s full testimony can be found here.

According to IAVA’s testimony, an independent task force is needed to evaluate the underlying causes of the VA disability claims backlog, facilitate coordinated remedies to those causes, and help bring outside expertise to bear on the problems the VA has encountered that have resulted in the backlog growing as high as it did and persisting for as long as it has. The task force would not impede the ongoing work of the VA to address problems that have already been identified. It would augment and support the VA’s ongoing work, contribute innovative ideas to that effort, report on its findings early and often, and increase transparency throughout the process. 

“We are glad that the VA has implemented temporary reforms to bring down the backlog. In recent months, the VA has moved to an all-electronic filing system, increased access to information, expanded staffing bandwidth and training, and improved internal coordination,” Nicholson said. “Yet, the VA itself admits that challenges remain to respond to the hundreds of thousands of veterans still waiting for answers. A task force would only help speed up the work of ending the backlog by ensuring that the VA gets all the information, resources, and expertise it needs to meet its goals.” 

Nicholson added: “The task force would also look ahead to identify future challenges so that we never again wind up in this unfortunate and unnecessary situation.”

Earlier this week, the VA announced there are over 833,000 veterans waiting for decisions on their disability claims, with 547,000 of those backlogged. To put a human face on the veterans who are waiting, IAVA last week launched a new digital tool, “The Wait We Carry.” The site, which was created with support from Knight Foundation and can be found at thewaitwecarry.org, allows users to find real stories of veterans in their communities who are stuck in the backlog.

“Those who find themselves in need of benefits and care from the VA are more than just files stacked on a desk in a government building. They are real people – veterans who have served our nation and have earned these benefits,” Nicholson said. “The response to The Wait We Carry has been incredible, as people across the country feel a duty to push for an end to the VA backlog. That is why we have to advance solutions like Chairman Miller’s legislation.” 

Since March, IAVA has fought to keep the backlog in the national spotlight, to ensure that leading officials take the necessary steps to bring the backlog to zero, and to support veterans stuck in the system. IAVA has also put forth for a set of recommendations ending the backlog: http://iava.org/backlogsolutions. More background on the issue and IAVA’s leadership can be found at http://iava.org/endthevabacklog

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (http://www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

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DOMA Decision a Victory for Equality, Readiness in the Military

DOMA Decision a Victory for Equality, Readiness in the Military

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/IAVAPressRoom

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams, 212-982-9699, press@iava.org

DOMA Decision a Victory for Equality, Readiness in the Military

NEW YORK (June 26, 2013) Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) voiced support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Just as with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), IAVA has advocated for the repeal of DOMA as part of its mission to advocate for the best interests of all of our troops, veterans, and their families. On March 1, 2013, IAVA signed on to an amicus brief in U.S. vs. Windsor, the case reviewing DOMA. Below is a statement from IAVA Chief of Staff Derek Bennett:

“This is a historic day for those who believe in and fight for equality under the law for all Americans. Under DOMA, LGBT service members who protect our country are denied benefits afforded to their peers. Thankfully, today, we have protected the rights of all troops, veterans and their families,” Bennett said.

“Today’s decision is in fact a victory for the strength of our armed forces. Support for military families is one of the most critical elements of a strong and healthy fighting force. IAVA is proud that all American service members can now serve openly in the military, and that they and their families can receive the benefits that they have earned,” Bennett added.

IAVA was proud to be the only national Veterans Service Organization to support the repeal of DADT in 2011, guaranteeing all citizens an equal right to serve our nation. Before leaving office, former Secretary Leon Panetta fought to extend some benefits to same sex military spouses. With the repeal of DOMA, LGBT veterans will be able to have equal access to care and benefits for their spouses.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has almost 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

 

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27 Things You Should Know about PTSD



A woman looks concerned, sitting in a cafe

Getting help for PTSD is problem solving, not a sign of weakness. Take the step.










June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day


To mark PTSD Awareness Day, here is a list of “27 Things to Know” about post-traumatic stress disorder. The list is compiled from our experts at VA’s National Center for PTSD. The Center conducts research and provides education on trauma and PTSD.


  1. Just because someone experiences a traumatic event does not mean they have PTSD.
  2. No matter how long it’s been since your trauma, treatment can help.
  3. To know whether you have PTSD, you should get an assessment from a clinician.
  4. Sexual assault is more likely to result in symptoms of PTSD than are other types of trauma, including combat.
  5. Social support is one of the greatest protective factors against developing PTSD after trauma.
  6. Research suggests that social support is an even more important resilience factor for women than men.
  7. Trouble sleeping is a core feature of PTSD, so it is important to address sleep problems in PTSD treatment.
  8. Getting help for PTSD early can prevent problems from expanding to other parts of your life.
  9. Evidence-based treatments for PTSD include psychotherapy (or “counseling”) and medications.
  10. Many people with PTSD also experience chronic pain or other physical health symptoms.
  11. PTSD often co-occurs with depression or other mental health symptoms.

VA Can Help with the Answers to These Questions


  1. Having PTSD does not mean you’re “crazy.”
  2. PTSD does not cause someone to be violent.
  3. If you have PTSD, you are not alone. With treatment, you can get better.
  4. In the general population, women are twice as likely as men to experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime.
  5. Recent research shows that men and women who served in Iraq (OIF) or Afghanistan (OEF) have similar rates of PTSD.
  6. Many people recover completely from PTSD with treatment.
  7. If someone in your family has PTSD, family therapy can help you learn to communicate and cope together.
  8. People who have PTSD also have a higher risk for substance use disorders.
  9. PTSD treatment has been shown to decrease suicidal ideation.
  10. Treatment is important for the person experiencing PTSD, but it also helps the family and improves relationships.
  11. PTSD therapists help you understand your thoughts and feelings so you have more control over them.
  12. Research suggests that variations in a number of genes may be risk factors for developing PTSD after trauma.
  13. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD have some common symptoms, but they are different diagnoses.
  14. Technology, like the PTSD Coach mobile app, can help you manage PTSD symptoms.
  15. VA provides PTSD care at every VA medical center and at many of the larger community-based clinics.
  16. Getting help for PTSD is problem solving, not a sign of weakness. Take the step.

We hope you find these words from our experts helpful. To learn more, visit: www.ptsd.va.gov.



Veteran talking in a video freeze frame

Many people recover completely from PTSD with treatment.


Veterans with PTSD Have Advice for You


Know that you are not alone. Learn about PTSD from Veterans who live with it every day in AboutFace, an online video gallery of Veterans.


About Face is the drill command to start going in another direction.


Let these brave Veterans give you advice about getting the help you need:


Robert Murphy: “Don’t wait 20, 30 years.”


Timm Lovitt: “Even if you don’t think you need the help, try it.”


Josh Hansen: “Definitely get the help before it’s too late.”


Hear their stories. Find out how PTSD treatment turned their lives around.







Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/June/27-Things-You-Should-Know-about-PTSD.asp

The Atlantic – The Wait We Carry : Using Data Visualization to Capture America’s Failure to Take Care of Its Veterans

The Atlantic – The Wait We Carry : Using Data Visualization to Capture America’s Failure to Take Care of Its Veterans

By: Rebecca Rosen

June 24, 2013

To explore “The Wait We Carry,” a new data-visualization project from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is to confront bureaucratic failure writ large. Scroll through the graph charting more than 1,700 veterans; see their names, ages, the lengths of their deployments; and then see, highlighted in burnt orange, just how many days they’ve been waiting to receive there benefits — an average of 558 days.

The backlog for veterans’ benefits claims is a mounting, slow-moving tragedy. Some 600,000 claims are “backlogged,” meaning they’ve sat around waiting, unanswered, literally in a pile somewhere, for more than 125 days. A statement provided to the New York Times in May said that Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veteran’s affairs, “is confident that we will end the backlog in 2015.” To which The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart replied: “In only two more years, they are hoping to have you wait only four more months.”

“The Wait We Carry,” which was funded by the Knight Foundation, is designed to communicate both the enormity of the problem and what the delay means in more human terms, by sharing the stories of individual veterans. For many of the veterans, visitors to the site can actually click on the words “I want to connect with this vet about his experience” and get in touch to learn more about his or her situation, send words of comfort and support, and perhaps even help.

“Something that we hear over and over again from veterans, unfortunately, is that they feel like they’re not being heard,” Aminatou Sow of the IAVA, who led the project’s team, told me. “The point of the data visualization for us was to give our members a way for them to tell use their stories.”

As the visualization opens, a little film plays: “Imagine this is you,” the text reads. In the background, a war scene unfolds, followed by images of disabled veterans. A slide appears, asking you, “How long should you have to wait before the country you served provides the help it promised?” You the select what you think to be an appropriate amount of time, perhaps a few days. Then the screen goes black, and the words read: “Over 500,000 veterans are waiting 344 days on average for the support they need.”

“A lot of people are blown away by how long that is — the fact that service-members have to wait for over a year,” says Sow.

Roughly 2.5 million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but many civilian Americans might not know more than a handful. “There’s just this huge civilian/service-member divide,” says Sow. She hopes that “The Wait We Carry” can be a plank in a bridge across that divide.

[link]

Work Study Video Online

Work-Study Program

Mr. Curtis Coy, VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Opportunity, discusses the benefits of the work-study program for those using the GI Bill.


 

Work Study Program Details



Introduction
Who is Eligible?
How Much May I Earn?
What Type of Work May I Do?
How Do I Apply?



If you’re a full-time or 3/4-time student
in a college degree, vocational, or professional program, you can “earn
while you learn”
with a VA work-study allowance.



Who is Eligible?

The VA work-study allowance is available to persons training on a full-time or ¾ time basis under the following
programs:

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill–(38 U.S.C. Chapter 33) (Veterans and transfer-of-entitlement recipients)
  • Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty (38 U.S.C. Chapter 30)
  • REAP Participants
  • Montgomery GI Bill–Selected Reserve (10 U.S.C. Chapter 1606)
  • Post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (38 U.S.C. Chapter
    32)
  • Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (38 U.S.C. Chapter 35)
  • Eligible dependents under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 may use work study only
    while training in a State.
  • National Call to Service Participants
  • Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program — (38 U.S.C. Chapter 31)

VA will select students for the work-study program based on different factors.
Such factors include:

  • Ability of the student to complete the work-study contract before the end
    of his or her eligibility to education benefits
  • Job availability within normal commuting distance to the student

The number of applicants selected will depend on the availability of VA-related
work at your school or at VA facilities in your area. Veterans with service-connected disabilities of at least 30% may be given priority consideration.

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How
Much May I Earn?

You’ll earn an hourly wage equal to the Federal minimum wage or your State
minimum wage, whichever is greater. If you’re in a work-study job at a college
or university, your school may pay you the difference between the amount VA
pays and the amount the school normally pays other work-study students doing
the same job as you.

You may elect to be paid in advance for 40% of the number of hours
in your work-study agreement, or for 50 hours, whichever is less. After you’ve
completed the hours covered by your first payment, VA will pay you each time
you complete 50 hours of service.

You may work during or between periods of enrollment. You can arrange with
VA to work any number of hours you want during your enrollment. But, the total
number of hours you work can’t be more than 25 times the number of weeks in
your enrollment period.

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What
Type of Work May I Do?

Services you perform under a VA work-study program must be related to VA work.
Examples of acceptable work are:


  • The preparation and processing of necessary papers and other documents at educational institutions
  • A position at a State Home providing hospital care, domiciliary care, or medical treatment under Chapter 17 of Title 38 U.S.C.
  • Any activity at a VA facility
  • Any activity relating to the administration of a National or State Veterans’ cemetery
  • Any activity at Department of Defense, Coast Guard, or National Guard facilities relating to the administration of Chapters 1606 or 1607 of Title 10 U.S.C.
  • Any activity of a State Veterans agency related to providing assistance to Veterans in obtaining any benefit under Title 38, U.S.C. or the laws of the State
  • A position working in a Center for Excellence for Veteran Student Success, as established under 20 U.S.C. 1161t, which purpose is to support and coordinate academic, financial, physical, and social needs of Veteran students
  • A position working in a cooperative program carried out jointly by the VA and an Institution of Higher Learning
  • Any veterans-related position in an Institution of Higher Learning, such as:
    • Assisting with dissemination of general information regarding Veteran benefits and/or services
    • Providing assistance to Veteran students with general inquiries about Veteran benefits via phone, email, or in person
    • Maintaining and organizing veteran-related files

The work you actually do will depend on your interests and the type of work
available.

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How Do I Apply?

You can download a copy of the application form HERE.

You can also contact the Regional Processing Office which handles your claim.

To locate your Regional Processing Office click here.

To obtain information on other sources of assistance, contact the financial
aid office at your school.

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Source Article from http://gibill.va.gov/resources/education_resources/programs/work_study_program.html

VA Starts Campaign to Raise PTSD Awareness








VA Starts Campaign to Raise PTSD Awareness

June 24, 2013






WASHINGTON –  In observance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness month, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD invites the public to participate in its “Take the Step” campaign.


“Every day of the year, we should focus on assisting those who have served our Nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “In June, during PTSD awareness month, we take special care to help Veterans with PTSD.  va is a leader in providing state-of-the-art, high-quality mental health care that improves and saves Veterans’ lives.  PTSD treatment can help and there is hope for recovery for Veterans who need mental health services.”


Throughout the month, online at www.PTSD.va.gov, the campaign has highlighted different topics so visitors can “Take the Step” to:  know more about PTSD; challenge their beliefs; explore the treatment options available; and reach out to make a difference.


VA provides effective PTSD treatment for Veterans and conducts extensive research on PTSD, including prevention of stress disorders.  Veterans are encouraged to use VA’s PTSD resources so they are able to recognize symptoms and seek help if the need arises. VA also encourages Veterans to share what they learn with someone they know to build awareness and support systems.


Following exposure to trauma, most people experience stress reactions but many do not develop PTSD.   Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not.  However, if stress reactions do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, VA encourages Veterans to seek help to determine if PTSD may be a factor.


“Many barriers keep people with PTSD from seeking the help they need,” said Dr. Matthew Friedman, Executive Director of VA’s National Center for PTSD. “Knowledge and awareness, however, are key to overcoming these barriers.  For those living with PTSD, knowing there are treatments that work, for example, can lead them to seek needed care. Greater public awareness of PTSD can help reduce the stigma of this mental health problem and overcome negative stereotypes that may keep many people from pursuing treatment.”


PTSD Awareness Month Highlights:


  • The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to raise public awareness of PTSD and its effective treatments so that everyone can help people affected by PTSD.

  • Throughout June explore weekly features at  www.ptsd.va.gov.

  • “Ten Steps to Raise PTSD Awareness” provides links to materials that foster greater understanding of trauma, PTSD and treatment. It offers practical suggestions for the public to raise PTSD awareness in their own community.

  • For continued involvement, please sign up for the PTSD Monthly Update. Stay up on new information about PTSD and trauma year round.


On June 3, VA announced it had hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers to meet the goal of 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in the President’s Aug. 31, 2012, Executive Order. Additionally, VA had hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies, as well as 318 new peer specialists towards the specific goal of 800 peer specialists by Dec. 31, 2013 as outlined in the Executive Order. 


Throughout the summer, VA will hold mental health summits at each of its 152 medical centers across the nation to establish and enhance positive working relationships with their community partners. The summits will help encourage community engagement in order to better address and understand the broad mental health care needs of veterans and their families.


For more information about PTSD, professionals and the public can go to The National Center for PTSD Web site at www.ptsd.va.gov.The site offers resources such as:


  • PTSD Coach mobile app, this award-winning app provides symptom-management strategies and it’s always with you when you need it.

  • Continuing education opportunities for providers, including PTSD 101 courses, on the best practices in PTSD treatment (CEs/CMEs offered).

  • AboutFace: An online video gallery of Veterans talking about PTSD and how treatment can turn your life around.


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VA Office of Public Affairs Distribution List.


Back to News Releases Index




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Source Article from http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=2455

The Atlantic – The Wait We Carry : Using Data Visualization to Capture America’s Failure to Take Care of Its Veterans

The Atlantic – The Wait We Carry : Using Data Visualization to Capture America’s Failure to Take Care of Its Veterans

By: Rebecca Rosen

June 24, 2013

To explore “The Wait We Carry,” a new data-visualization project from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is to confront bureaucratic failure writ large. Scroll through the graph charting more than 1,700 veterans; see their names, ages, the lengths of their deployments; and then see, highlighted in burnt orange, just how many days they’ve been waiting to receive there benefits — an average of 558 days.

The backlog for veterans’ benefits claims is a mounting, slow-moving tragedy. Some 600,000 claims are “backlogged,” meaning they’ve sat around waiting, unanswered, literally in a pile somewhere, for more than 125 days. A statement provided to the New York Times in May said that Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veteran’s affairs, “is confident that we will end the backlog in 2015.” To which The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart replied: “In only two more years, they are hoping to have you wait only four more months.”

“The Wait We Carry,” which was funded by the Knight Foundation, is designed to communicate both the enormity of the problem and what the delay means in more human terms, by sharing the stories of individual veterans. For many of the veterans, visitors to the site can actually click on the words “I want to connect with this vet about his experience” and get in touch to learn more about his or her situation, send words of comfort and support, and perhaps even help.

“Something that we hear over and over again from veterans, unfortunately, is that they feel like they’re not being heard,” Aminatou Sow of the IAVA, who led the project’s team, told me. “The point of the data visualization for us was to give our members a way for them to tell use their stories.”

As the visualization opens, a little film plays: “Imagine this is you,” the text reads. In the background, a war scene unfolds, followed by images of disabled veterans. A slide appears, asking you, “How long should you have to wait before the country you served provides the help it promised?” You the select what you think to be an appropriate amount of time, perhaps a few days. Then the screen goes black, and the words read: “Over 500,000 veterans are waiting 344 days on average for the support they need.”

“A lot of people are blown away by how long that is — the fact that service-members have to wait for over a year,” says Sow.

Roughly 2.5 million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but many civilian Americans might not know more than a handful. “There’s just this huge civilian/service-member divide,” says Sow. She hopes that “The Wait We Carry” can be a plank in a bridge across that divide.

[link]

After Tornado, VA Joins Community Responders



A woman stands in front of tornado damage.

Andrea Farmer, VA Lawton Vet Center Team Leader, assisted Veterans and their families after the devastating tornado.










Helped Over 4,400 Veterans and Others


After an EF5 tornado, the highest category of intensity, slammed into Moore, Okla., on May 20, 2013, hundreds of Oklahomans had an immediate reaction: help those hurt by the storm.


VA was among them.


VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) immediately dispatched their staff and a Mobile Vet Center to the scene. As of today, one month later, they are still there.


As of June 19, Vet Center staff members from across the country have provided readjustment counseling services, including outreach, education, referral and direct counseling to 4,481 Veterans, family members, active duty service members, first responders, and Oklahoma citizens.


A Mobile Vet Center and RCS staff are currently operating in the El Reno, Okla., area providing direct counseling services, outreach, referral and benefits counseling to Veterans and their families.


As in all traumatic situations, the experience affects different people in different ways.


 My days have been filled with…hope from those impacted. 


He Listened to Who We Are


Deborah Jesseman, Northtown, PA Vet Center, Team Leader, remembers one encounter. “A Marine Corps Veteran approached me and said, ‘Are you a Veteran?’ I was able to say yes. He said, ‘I made the wrong turn yesterday and ended up in a war zone.’ He explained that he went to the area that was badly hit and ‘had a flashback.’ The conversation was intense because it initially appeared he was thinking of suicide, but after several minutes of talking, he indicated that he would never commit suicide because his friend had done this and he saw what this did to people. He listened to what the Vet Center offers and who we are and he agreed to see a counselor at the local Vet Center.”


Lisa Wallace, a counselor with the Aurora, Ill., Vet Center, said, “The team I have been working within the Moore community has been assisting Veterans and families. Some of them have really touched my heart. The one that really stands out for me the most is the family that lost everything but the mother did not complain. She said, ‘I am thankful to God that we are all alive.’ She said, ‘I may not have my stuff, but I have my family and the support of those from around the world.’ The families and Veterans have thanked us over and over again for coming out and providing assistance and support.”


As Counseling Service Team Leader Andrea Farmer puts it, “I am truly honored to be able to provide assistance and support to the families of Oklahoma. Being able to serve and help others rebuild their lives is a passion for me. My days have been filled with smiles, joy, gratitude, and most of all, hope from those impacted.”



A man and woman in a Mobile Vet Center working on computers.

Louann Fellers Engle, Readjustment Counseling Services Regional Manager, and Christopher Thomas, Mobile Vet Center Driver.


VA Mobile Vet Centers — Rescue on Wheels


The Mobile Vet Center (MVC) has two confidential counseling areas on either end with a waiting room in the center. The internet satellite and onboard generator assures that Vet Center counselors will have real time access to a Veteran’s VA records on a secure system.


A video conferencing system allows for face-to-face visits between the Veteran and a health provider at any VA Medical Center.


As part of the outreach to Veterans, the MVC travels to deployment locations making sure that our Reserve and Active Duty service members are aware of the problems they may encounter while overseas and when they return home.



Three people at a table outside a Mobile Vet Center.

VA’s Christopher Thomas, Erica Seyfert and Austin Wilmarth responded to Oklahoma Tornado


VA Mobile Vet Centers have been maximized for multi-use applications by adding portable exam tables that can be configured within the existing confidential counseling areas to provide limited primary care capability.


Additionally, the installation of rear doors, a wheelchair lift, and litter racks within the vehicle provide emergency patient evacuation capability. The addition of locked storage space and refrigeration facilitate medication storage during primary care utilization. A shower and toilet facilities are also contained within the MVC. These enhance VA medical personnel capabilities in health care outreach such as “Stand Downs” for homeless veterans.


In the event of a natural disaster or a civil defense emergency, the extraordinary communications capabilities of the MVC enables VA to assist federal and state emergency managers in a variety of ways.







Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/June/After-Tornado-VA-Joins-Community-Responders.asp

New Data Visualization Website Highlights Human Toll of VA Backlog

New Data Visualization Website Highlights Human Toll of VA Backlog

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/IAVAPressRoom

New Data Visualization Website Highlights Human Toll of VA Backlog

IAVA Launches  “The Wait We Carry” with support from Knight Foundation

WASHINGTON – (June 20, 2013) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today announced the launch of “The Wait We Carry,” a website designed to improve benefits by collecting and publicizing data on the Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims backlog. The site, which was created with support from Knight Foundation, can be found at thewaitwecarry.org.

This tool allows veterans to submit data on backlogged claims so public officials, advocates, journalists, other veterans and members of the public can see how the backlog personally affects new veterans. Users can explore individual claims by branch of service, wait times, and other veteran-provided background. 

“’The Wait We Carry’ is an incredibly important resource that puts the focus of the VA Backlog where it belongs: on the individual veterans facing an enduring and straining wait. These people are more than just numbers. They are fathers, mothers, daughters and sons, and ‘The Wait We Carry’ shines a spotlight on their struggles,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of IAVA. “When this data is presented in such an easy-to-grasp way, Americans cannot help but feel a duty to push for an end to the VA backlog.” 

 “This project demonstrates the power of joining design and data to help communities understand and solve problems. There’s no better example than helping those who served get the benefits they’ve earned,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation.

“The Wait We Carry” was created as part of a $250,000 grant from Knight Foundation announced in June 2012. It was designed by Periscopic, a socially conscious data visualization firm.

One of the veterans featured in “The Wait We Carry” is Jonathan Goodman, who served in the Marines and twice was deployed to Iraq. He earned a Purple Heart Medal for wounds sustained in a 2004 suicide-bomb blast.  On July 1, 2012, Goodman filed a claim for chronic migraines, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, and pain in his ankles, arms, and back. He has been waiting since – almost a full year. He gets medical treatment from the local VA hospital, but said that the claim decision delay has put a financial strain on him and his wife. He is taking extra work shifts while his wife is putting in longer hours.

“It’s sad to see so many veterans come back and apply for this disability benefits and then wait so long to get a response. It can send a lot of veterans into a downward spiral,” said Goodman, who lives in Tulsa. “Veterans need to get the help they’ve earned. They shouldn’t be put on the back burner.”

IAVA is launching The Wait We Carry as veterans and supporters continue the national campaign to bring the backlog to zero. Today, IAVA will join members of Congress, other Veterans Service Organizations, and reporters at the kickoff of the Weekly Standard-Concerned Veterans for America Defend and Reform Breakfast Series. There, Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will deliver a speech addressing the backlog. Also tomorrow, IAVA will participate in a Veterans Benefits Administration roundtable, which will discuss the backlog, among other issues critical to veterans.

Since March, IAVA has fought to keep the backlog in the national spotlight, to ensure that leading officials take the necessary steps to bring the backlog to an end, and to support veterans stuck in the system. IAVA has also put forth solutions for ending the backlog: http://iava.org/blog/solutions-end-va-disability-claims-backlog. More background on the issue and IAVA’s leadership can be found at http://iava.org/endthevabacklog. 

About IAVA

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (http://www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.KnightFoundation.org.

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